The Behemoth paused, dropping the letter from his pocket down onto the ground. He’d thought about where to leave it for the last week. He had never felt an attachment to his fathers grave, it was just a stone with a vessel underneath. He’d never felt an attachment to anything in the house, it was just the place they lived. He knew where his father would see it, where he felt attached. In the center of the barn, where the ring once stood. It was the one place his father loved to be, the one place he wanted to be all the time. Everything else in Robert Byrd’s life was always structured around necessity. But this place, this place was different.
The barn? The ring? The rooms he had built above it? It was all extra, all luxury. It didn’t make much money, it didn’t make Robert Byrd famous. But the school, the ring, the men that had passed through over the decades. They made him happy. And finally, for the first time in Clay’s life, it made him happy too. He walked back out the way he came, through the debris and metal fragments. Right back through where the door had been, Clay almost grabbed for the barn door that wasn’t there. He smiled, the thoughts of his father being angry about the door, even though the entire barn was gone made him smile.
That was something his Dad would have done. Been fuming angry that he couldn’t shut the barn door anymore. Clay reached into his jeans and pulled his phone out of his pocket. He scrolled through the numbers inside, finally landing on the contact he wanted. He pressed the call button and waited.
“Hey Charlie, it’s Clay…” Clay’s voice trailed as he listened to the man shout into the ear piece, he winced, pulling it away from his ear for a moment before finally settling in.
“Yeah, was just callin’ ta see if ya had time ta do that thing we’d talked ‘bout…” Clay waited for a response, the man on the other end of the line hemmed and hawed for a moment, before giving the enormous man what he wanted.
“Yeah, comin’ out next week? Yeah… place is a fuckin’ mess, whole thing prolly needs bulldozed. Go ‘head and just get started. I’ll try ta find some time ta make my way down fer it…” the man interrupted, anytime you hired a contractor for anything they always made it out to be a bigger deal than what it was, but looking around at the burnt husks of the three buildings, Clay knew he wasn’t exaggerating.
“Yeah, come out, bulldoze it, and we can talk ‘bout what I want on the property… Alright… good talkin’ ta ya. See ya soon.” He pressed the end call button and shoved the phone back in his pocket. He smiled, he was finally going to do something for himself, something that would make HIM happy. Instead of living up to a legacy, or doing something everyone else wanted him to do, this would be for him. Clay smiled as he looked out over the ranch, the fields stretching beyond the horizon, the only thing stopping you from seeing the fence line hundreds of acres away was the curvature of the earth.
The big man got back up in the truck, closing the door and backing back down the driveway. It was going to be a long drive to Tombstone, plenty of time to clear his head before locking up with Bob Grenier.
Hours later, Clay pulled over and stopped somewhere along the highway that ran parallel with old route 66 through New Mexico. You could see the old roads from the highway as you drove, entire towns standing in ruins, while society, and progress marched on beside it. Only the largest towns along the old road still existed. They celebrated their history and heritage near the corpses of the old towns. All of the hotels were rat infested shit holes, a century of travel through areas led the local wildlife to the only consistent food in the dessert of New Mexico. The hotels.
So The Behemoth propped his feet up and stretched out across the front of the cab. He hadn’t slept in the truck since the tag team tournament, it’d been five or more months, and it hadn’t gotten any more comfortable than it was then. Clay reached over the center console, grabbing his gym bag from behind the seat. It was lighter than normal, he’d let Harrison and Bergman take the tag team championship since they were defending it. The HOTv Championship still added significant weight to the bag. He opened the bag, digging past his ring gear, and even the HOTv championship.
Holding that green title felt awkward, weird even. The roster, his peers, seemingly didn’t want the championship. His open call out had gone unanswered by HOW members, he’d fought through the men Lee Best was willing to put in front of him, but none of the others came. The ones he wanted to fight, the ones he needed to fight. They stayed away, they hid behind the ICON championship, they hid behind the 97RED lady, they hid behind the LSD championship.
They had them all, every belt inside of High Octane Wrestling. They held them because their boss demanded that they hold them. He made sure that they held them, no matter the cost. Take out legends like Jatt Starr, or whatever he was calling himself these days. Bring back title belts that didn’t exist just to make your grandson happy. It’s the same story, everytime. But Lee hadn’t sent one of them after the HOTv title yet.
STRONK hadn’t appeared on the horizon, Jace was shaking in his boots, ducking behind the wide but short man. Tyler sat in the office with his father and grandfather. While America was distracted with Solex. But any of them could have come for it, any of them could have decided to lay down the challenge, any of them could have stepped up to the plate. Instead, they all seemed too busy for the HOTv championship.
The belt that traveled, the belt that represented HOW everywhere, the belt that anyone could step up and challenge for. Whether it was Bill Dickinson from MVW, to a man from SVO, to Bob fucking Grenier. Anyone could come take it, anyone could come and take away something that mattered to Lee Best.
So why did the one man Lee hated over everyone else have it?
It was an interesting question that The Monster from Plainview pondered as he resumed rummaging through his gear bag. Finally, he felt the coarse nylon and grass fibers under his finger tips. He pulled the rope out and sat it on his lap, the bell followed, dinging and clanging its way out of the gear bag. He looked the rope over, holding it in his hands. He looked at the end, the rope around the wrist was dyed from the blood of his father, or one of his opponents. The rope was the last thing The Behemoth owned that his father had given him. The Patriarch of the Byrd family had carried this same rope to the ring every night of his career.
Now The Behemoth did the same, he carried it with him everywhere he went. He walked out of the entrance ramp holding it, daring any man on the roster to have the stones to hook up to the other end of it. He followed the twist in the rope up to where the bell was tied. The cowbell sounded like hell, nothing like a fresh bell you’d actually put around the neck of a bull. The brass clapper and bell had seen better days. The bell was dented in on one side, Robert Byrd had never told Clay how it had happened. But he imagined his father swinging the bell at an opponent like a wild man.
The bell was the most dangerous portion of the rope, it could end a match in a second. The edges could cut you, they could be driven into your flesh, the metal behind it could be used as a weapon. The rope could bite you, but the bell could kill you. It was the great equalizer in the bullrope match, typically the larger man always had the advantage. But the one way to even the odds, was that damned bell. He smirked as he looked at it, tracing the faded lettering with his fingertip. He paused, checking the knot, he pulled to tighten it, just in case.
He’d only seen his father hooked up to the rope once in his entire life. Robert had always avoided taking his son to the most violent of his matches. Leaving Clay with Mrs. Stull and her family for a few days so he had time to heal. But the big shows in Dallas, Clay had always been allowed to go to the big show. The environment outside the Sportatorium was something to behold. A full fledged carnival showed up for the shows in Dallas. The parking lot would have games, food, a radio station, everything a nine year old boy would want to do.
But that night, Robert Byrd had to hook himself up to the rope.
Clay remembered holding his hands over his eyes as he saw his fathers head busted open, the blood spewing down his forehead, his handlebar mustache tinted a shade of crimson. He peaked through everytime the crowd made a noise. He didn’t want to watch the violence, but he had to know what had happened. He had to know what befell his father or the man on the other side of the rope.
He watched the bell that night, watched as it equalized the situation. Robert Byrd’s opponent was smaller than he was, but that ring bell, and the rope itself helped to even the odds. The bell had cut his father open just above his eye, but he fought on. Blood spraying every which way. Robert wasn’t done yet, and the momentum shifted. The bell had done it’s job, and Robert made sure he kept using it. Driving it down across his opponents face, over and over again.
That wasn’t enough to put the man away though. Clay had understood and reconciled with the beating his father had given the man with the bell. But when the man kicked out, Robert Byrd had done the only thing he could do to put the man away. He wrapped the rope around the man’s neck and pulled it tight with one arm, while strangling the man with his bicep. He tied the rope around his hand and yanked. Robert Byrd put his opponent to sleep that night with the help of a rope, and his enormous arms. He squeezed until the man’s face went from light red exhaustion, to panicked midnight red. He hadn’t seen the rope since, that’s why he was surprised when his father handed it to him, all those years ago.
Clay shook his head, remembering that day. His father stood leaning up against the lockers talking to his old friends. He was all smiles as The Behemoth’s twenty three year old form walked up to him, he clapped his son on the shoulder. Robert Byrd was absolutely beaming as he told his friends all about his son. How he should be in the NFL, how he was the best natural athlete he’d ever seen in the ring.
Then before the praise could get completely out of hand, the call came, “Byrd to gorilla.” A small impish looking man had said. He was gone as fast as he’d stuck his head in. The pleasantries were over, and Robert had whispered a few words of advice into his son’s ear. Things about his opponent, tendencies he had. The two marched down the hall, the last preparations coming fast and furious. And then, right before Clay was about to walk through the curtain, his old man stopped him.
“Boy, Byrd men don’t go anywhere without a rope.” Clay said out loud in the cab. His own voice cracked as he did. He slid his own wrist through the clean hole. It was the last possession he owned of his fathers, the notebook was gone. The barn was gone. The house. Lee Best had made sure he wasn’t wearing bikini tights with CB in cursive on the side, he’d given him the pants with the skull on the leg. The duster Clay had bought years before in Japan, someone had told him it’d look cool if he looked more like a video game character. And the hat, well he owned quite a few different hats. He leaned back against the door, and pulled his hat down over his eyes. He crossed his arms, with the rope still tied loosely around his wrist, and he went to sleep.
You want to do what to my fucking belt?
You want to take it into an OCW ring and take an actual literal fucking shit on it?
You want to take the thing that I’ve fought to elevate, the thing I’ve fought to make actually fucking important, you want to take that thing into the middle of the ring. On the network the title is fucking named after, set it down in the middle of the OCW logo, and take a steaming fucking shit on it?
Like fucking hell.
Bob, you’ll have to fucking kill me in that ring before I let that happen.
I’m glad you’re worth millions of dollars, I’m glad Marcus fucking Welsh pays you millions of dollars to sit around in a van with three other idiots smoking joints. Because you’re going to need those millions to recover from what the fuck I’m going to do to you in that fucking ring. It’s not going to be fucking pretty Bob, it’s not going to be fucking fun, you aren’t trying to chase the fucking Egg Bandits out of Tombstone. You’re trying to chase the fucking Highwaymen out of their fucking home.
And I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let that happen either.
You sorry sack of fucking garbage, you rich piece of fucking trash, you walking, talking, breathing jizz rag. You think you’re going to come in and waltz all over me like the kids from Scooby fucking Doo? Riding around in some stupid fucking mystery machine, with JAM fucking G who probably has the intelligence of a golden retriever? You thought I’d sit there with my hands tied behind my back after some wild chase through the city, and yell about the meddling stoners?
No, no that’s not how this story goes.
How this story ends, is with me tying that fucking rope around your neck like you’re a New York City stock broker down at Wall Street. I’m gonna pull that son of a bitch so tight your face turns as many colors as the side of that stupid fucking van. I’ll smash your face in with that bell until I start hearing squishy sounds. Then I’ll keep swinging until I hear you fucking choking on your own teeth.
Then I might keep going Bob.
Because you’re trying to shit on me. You’re trying to shit on my hard work, and you’re trying to shit on my fucking home. I’ll keep going because I want to show that dumb son of a bitch fighting Kostoff that the man he sent to kill me, couldn’t fucking do it. I’m going to send him a message, carved into your fucking body. Nobody is going to take this fucking thing away from me. Nobody is going to take that title belt, off of my fucking waist, unless he makes me a fucking corpse.
Unless he sends out a hundred EPU with batons to beat me half to death, he’s not getting this fucking title. He’s not going to sacrifice the hard work of all the boys that’s fought for this fucking thing over the years and get to watch the title get shit on. I don’t care what the fuck he owns, he doesn’t get to make that fucking call. I do, I’m the fucking champion, I’m the one with the fucking belt, I’m the one that carries it with me everywhere I fucking go. I’m the man that fought for it, and won it. I’m the man that smashed his little monster through a flaming table.
So no Lee, Bob Grenier and the Scooby Doo gang aren’t going to get this belt off of me. Not after all the work I’ve put into it, the tears I’ve shed for it, the blood I’ve spilt for it. No, they can’t fucking have it, it’s fucking mine. And I’ll keep it as long as I fucking want to. Because it’s mine. The PWA contract, the right to go on any show whenever I fucking want to, to make money wherever I fucking want to. All of that belongs to me, and you can go fuck yourself if you think I’m just going to hand it over to some fucking moron like Bob Grenier.
Bob, I had you figured for being a smart man. I had you figured for being a fellow that had his head on his shoulders. That got by on wit and craftiness rather than brawn and strength. But you’re worried about what my fucking SAT score was instead of worrying about the fact that I’m a six foot seven fucking colossus. That you could chisel my body into granite and it would be mistaken for a Greek God. That I’m the scariest fucking thing he’s ever seen in the ring. No, he’s out here talking about how I’m fucking dumb. Bob, I can be as dumb as a fucking board, but I’m still gonna be big enough to rip you across that ring by that rope, and beat the living fuck out of you. I’m still nasty enough to know how to turn that rope into a fucking whip and beat you like they beat our Lord and savior.
I don’t need to be smart Bob. I just need to be fucking violent.
And you’re gonna find out how violent I can be at Dead or Alive.
I’ll see you in Tombstone.